These days there are cruise themes for many different interests: Golf, art, photography, World War II history, cultural heritage, gardening, beer, and yes, wine. Wine themed cruises have been around for several years and are growing in popularity. They offer exclusive access to vineyards, winemakers, special talks and tastings one normally doesn't have access to.
River cruising lends itself well to wine themes, considering many of the world's best wine regions are located in or near beautiful river valleys. Add to that culinary delights, cultural and historical sites, castles, museums, quaint towns and wonderful scenery and a relaxing, unique and exciting vacation is in the making.
These three itineraries are especially nice for those who have an affinity for red wines. The Bordeaux region of France, the Columbia River region in Oregon and the Douro Valley in Portugal all offer fantastic opportunities to explore culturally and historically rich areas with plenty of world class vineyards. An added bonus - somewhat "off the beaten path, these rivers tend to less crowded than the popular Rhine and Danube cruises.
The Bordeaux region is the world's leading producer of high quality red wines and is located in southwestern France. The region is well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes. Cruises sail along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and Gironde Estuary, with stops in Cadillac, well known for its dessert wines and Paulliac, home to Château Mouton-Rothschild. Historical sites dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries can be explored in Libourne and Blayewith. Learn more about the Rivers of France.
The Bordeaux itineraries are available with Amawaterways, Avalon, CroisiEurope, Scenic, Uniworld and Viking. European Waterways offers barge trips through the region as well.
The Columbia River Gorge made it to the Travel Channel's 2015 top ten list of best places to vacation in America. Cruises follow the route pioneered by Lewis and Clark more than 200 years ago between Portland and Lewiston, Idaho or Portland roundtrip. You sail past spectacular scenery in the Columbia River Gorge and Idaho's Hell's Canyon, explore Multnomah Falls, Astoria, Portland and numerous wineries.
Un-Cruise's itinerary includes four rivers: the Columbia, Snake, Willamette, and Palouse and visits to up to 5 wineries in this award winning region. Check out their short video.
The Douro Valley
The Douro Valley, the birthplace of Port wine, is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, with its windy canyons, steep hillsides filled with vineyards, quaint old world villages and natural beauty. Meaning " A River of Gold", the Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The river begins in northern Spain and flows 50 miles through Portugal. A cruise on the Douro is perfect for wine connoisseurs wanting to experience the region’s most well known beverage, and those wanting to discover Europe’s best-kept secret, with its spellbinding natural beauty and cultural heritage. Most cruises start and end in Porto, and are often extended with stays in Lisbon and Madrid. Learn more here.
Douro River itineraries are available with Amawaterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Uniworld and Viking.